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What are the Different Clozapine Side Effects?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clozapine is a medication used in treating individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. There are a number of side effects associated with the drug, and some can be made worse by pre-existing conditions. Although the medication acts by interfering with signals between the neurotransmitters in the brain, many of the clozapine side effects deal with other areas of the body. In side effects such as seizures, it has been found that the higher the dose an individual is prescribed, the higher the chances are of side effects.

In about one percent of the patients who have been prescribed clozapine, the drug has impacted their immune systems and lowered their white blood cell counts. This leaves the patient more vulnerable to infections and illness, and in some cases the drop in the blood cell count has been so severe that it has been deadly. Many health professionals administering clozapine will require regular blood tests to make sure this is not occurring. These tests are usually conducted before, during and even after treatment.

Clozapine side effects can also include swelling in the muscles of the heart, which is called myocarditis. This can be a serious condition, and symptoms such as chest pain, an erratic heartbeat, difficulty breathing and fatigue should be reported to a medical professional. Seizures are fairly common among the clozapine side effects and occur at a rate of about five percent.

Some of the clozapine side effects are typical only when an individual first starts the medication and gradually disappear as the body adjusts to it. Lightheadedness and dizziness are common and can be a result of a change in the patient's blood pressure. This usually last several weeks and can be made worse by sudden changes in altitude or even by standing or sitting quickly. In cases wherein this drop in blood pressure is drastic, it is possible to find an individual fainting from the change. If the drug is stopped suddenly, this will generally be one of the side effects.

Clozapine side effects in those who have also been diagnosed with dementia are so severe that it is not generally used for treating these patients. These individuals can suffer from numbness, weakness, slowed speech and difficulty communicating, which have been found to be precursors to death. It does, however, have minimal other side effects in pregnant women and has been deemed safe for use during pregnancy.

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